Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at an unidentified human rights worker in a metaphor-heavy speech Monday that seemed to allude to Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for Chroy Thmar pagoda in Kompong Cham province, Hun Sen criticized a rights worker he named as Akuk Sora, whom he described as an irate critic who often took his assaults against Cambodia’s human rights record to the nation’s radio airwaves.
“Some foreign radios and foreigners buzz with him. They are jobless [in their country], so they try to do [human rights] work. If they did not cry like this, how could they get money?” Hun Sen said of his critic.
“If he used that money for pumping water, he would gain more popularity. But [instead] he goes and curses everywhere,” Hun Sen said, according to a recording by Apsara Radio.
“He targets curses against Hun Sen. But it’s no problem for Hun Sen. Let him do it,” the prime minister said. “A person who does like this, he would get sin at anytime.”
Earlier that day, Hun Sen had referred to what he termed as the basic Buddhist doctrine of “If one does merit, one gets merit; do sin, get sin.”
Reached by telephone Monday, Kem Sokha, a former Funcinpec senator, said he did not know for certain whether Hun Sen was addressing him directly in the speech.
“But after he makes innuendoes, something could happen, like in the case of Chuor Chetharith,” Kem Sokha said.
In October 2003, Chuor Chetharith, a reporter and editor of the pro-Funcinpec radio station Ta Prohm, was shot dead outside the station’s offices. Days before, Hun Sen had publicly warned the station to stop broadcasting programs critical of his speeches.
No suspects have been arrested in the killing.
Human rights workers said they are watching the fallout from Hun Sen’s latest speech with caution.
“It sounded like a threat,” said Ron Abney, acting country director of the US-based International Republican Institute, which funds Kem Sokha’s CCHR. “There’s no such thing as idle threats with these people.”
(Additional reporting by Corinne Purtill)